Africa in Motion 2016 Preview

Africa in Motion returns for its 11th year with a new collaborative approach to curation that brings pop-up mini-festivals, a summer school on Scotland's black history and an exhibition going behind the scenes of African Cinema

Feature by Lewis Porteous | 06 Oct 2016

Despite living in the information age, where mass communication methods allow for immediate satisfaction of our every curiosity, many of us remain shamefully ignorant of the world's second largest continent and its 54 nation states. Viewed alternately as a famine ravaged subject of pity, a war-torn lost cause or a mystifying patchwork of primitive traditions, the truth is that Africa is too vast and diverse to ever be fully comprehended. The success of previous Africa in Motion festivals has lain in their ability to humanise the continent, celebrating the tenacity of its people while placing emphasis on its mythic qualities and pervasive cultural influence.

AiM turned ten last year and has seemingly drawn a line under a decade of meticulous curation. 2016 finds the festival looking ahead to a new era of programming, in which added emphasis is placed on outreach and audience engagement. While it's always sought to stimulate curious minds through a diverse series of film screenings, discussions, exhibitions and live performances, the specifics of this year's edition are being shaped by residents of Scotland's central belt; some likely, others less so.

A truly collaborative approach has led to various groups and organisations choosing what they want to see on screen, while pop-up film festivals are set to run in oft-neglected areas of East Lothian and Paisley. Communities in these locations will have the chance to encounter rarely screened work, without having selections imposed upon them. Disparate demographics are meanwhile being reached out to, with young 'Reviving Scotland's Black History' summer school attendees curating a package of events alongside postgraduate students of Glasgow University.

The theme of 'Time' will serve as a throughline for the festival's various offerings. Audiences are promised an exploration of the past, present and future of Africa, which will touch upon such uncomfortable issues as slavery and colonisation. Grim as these subjects are, they may achieve a note of optimism in allowing us to learn from history's most horrific lessons, while proving that Africa has always responded to and been linked with global movements, contrary to the popular notion of the continent as an isolated time capsule of defiant, inscrutable tradition.

Even more literal concepts of time will be explored in meditations on Swahili time and the Amharic calendar, proving that AiM is nothing if not thorough.

Due to conservative distributors and blinkered critical engagement, few African auteur directors have achieved the kind of international recognition they deserve. As a result, general audiences don't have established perceptions of African cinema's stylistic hallmarks. For this reason, choosing which screenings to attend can be an intimidating stab in the dark, but one which brings with it the thrill of true discovery. The festival's had a high hit rate to date and whether you're drawn to its offerings for reasons of anthropology, escapism, social realism or aesthetic beauty, it's more than likely you'll be surprised by the energy of a people and film industry still writing their own rules.

This year's exhibition promises to document this sense of creativity and invention. Titled African Cinema Behind the Scenes, its goal is to lay bare the entire filmmaking process, from conception to release, something to which we're rarely privy with regards to our own domestic offerings. All images included in these displays will be tied into the films included in the 2016 festival programme, and so amount to an essential piece of an immersive whole, the delights of which are, frankly, too extensive to go fit into a drooling preview piece. For your own sake, waste no time in scouring the festival's listings and get involved.

Top Three Films at Africa in Motion

The Battle of Algiers
Even after 50 years, the rage of Gillo Pontecorvo’s gritty, black-and-white study of Algeria's war against France still makes this work of political anger a knockout. It’s also a nail-biting thriller, its joy and tension coming from its detailed reconstruction of the guerrilla warfare tactics that tipped the scales toward the rebel forces. 30 Oct, GFT

Naked Reality
Naked Reality is the cinema of the future,” exclaims AiM. Cameroon’s enfant terrible filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo looks to be once again pushing his visual experimentation to the limit with this fable set in a future Africa that has become one single metropolis and centres on a young woman who’s potentially the savior in this dystopian world. 31 Oct, Glasgow School of Art

Rain the Colour of Blue With a Little Red in It
If the idea of taking Prince’s self-mythologising rock opera, Purple Rain, and remaking it within the Tuareg community of the Sahara sounds like a joke, that’s because that’s exactly what it was, but director Christopher Kirkley was soon convinced he was on to something: “We realised if we took the original story and modified it, the remake would reflect the lives of every guitarist in the Tuareg community.” If you’re wondering about the convoluted title, that’s because there’s no word for purple in the Tuareg language. 3 Nov, Brass Monkey

Africa in Motion runs 28 Oct-6 Nov.